Algorithm can’t distinguish them from premature babies.
Researchers have grown human mini-brains on a lab bench that are so advanced that AI rated their brainwaves on the same level as those of a premature baby.
It’s a stunning finding that left the scientists wondering if it was real.
“We couldn’t believe it at first – we thought our electrodes were malfunctioning,” says lead researcher Alysson Muotri, a neuroscientist and stem cell researcher at the University of California San Diego in the US.
“Because the data were so striking, I think many people were kind of sceptical about it, and understandably so.”
The study is a major advance in the field of brain “organoids”, pea-sized versions of our most precious organ that are being co-opted in the race to find treatments for epilepsy, dementia and cancer.
Mini-brains are typically grown from human skin cells that are magicked into a kind of master cell, called an induced pluripotent stem (IPS) cell. With further coaxing, IPS cells can become any type of cell in the body, including brain cells.
These mini-brains are already complex. They have message-sending neurons and the glial cells that support them. They also grow recognisable brain parts such as the cortex, cerebellum and even the retina.
Until now, however, the chatter between brain cells has been pretty low level, causing something of a headache for researchers.
Read the full story in Cosmos magazine here